Why New York's Famous Central Park Boathouse Restaurant May Close

It's been featured in several films, overlooks the Central Park lake, and has extended itself as a venue to thousands of beautiful weddings, yet the Loeb Boathouse is now closing its doors. Not only did the Boathouse present a tranquil setting to escape the hustle and bustle of busy Manhattan, it offered anywhere from a casual lunch overlooking the water to an extravagant dinner party.

Originally starting out as, quite literally, a boathouse to store rowboats in the 1860s, it wasn't until close to a century later, in the 1950s, when investment banker and philanthropist Carl M. Loeb donated enough money to turn it into what it is today, a landmark restaurant. The Loeb Boathouse opened its doors in 1983, and has since then changed hands several times until Dean J. Poll sought out the contract in 2000. Unfortunately, the standing of today's economy is causing a rise in labor and cost of goods. The restaurant is no longer able to operate.

The cost to operate the Loeb Boathouse is high

According to The New York Times, Poll states "It's a very difficult place to operate. It's the location, the seasonality, its access and its expenses." The restaurant is also not easy to get to by car. Effective October 16th, 2022, the restaurant will close its doors, laying off 163 employees (per CNN).

In March 16, 2020, among many other food establishments, Poll made the executive decision to temporarily close the restaurant, furloughing his employees (per The City). In September 2020, Poll announced that the restaurant would remain closed for the foreseeable future. The hopes of reopening were not high, but one year later, the restaurant opened back up. 

Inflation has affected the entire country, and especially larger cities with already high costs of living. New Yorkers are struggling with increased rent and grocery prices. CBS News states that the NY Labor Department shows consumer prices have risen 9.1% since one year ago, which is the fastest pace since 1981.

The Loeb Boathouse is seeking a new owner

While the restaurant industry took a huge hit during the pandemic, Poll tells Patch that "Covid-19 has nothing to do with anything. The volume was there, but the expenses just eat away at it."

While the closing is extremely disappointing, Crystal Howard, an official from the Department of Parks and Recreation, told The New York Times that they're working to find a new owner as soon as possible, and will accommodate those who booked future events or weddings at the venue.

The union that represents workers for the restaurant is promising job security to all laid off employees once a new owner is contracted. While this news does not indicate a permanent closing for the property, the length of time it will take to find a new owner is unknown.

Poll tells Gothamist, "Any responsible person would be concerned about the future, as I am. If you're not concerned, you're putting your head in the sand. I think the city is resilient, and I think it's going to come back. How long it's going to take to get back to where we were, I don't have a crystal ball. I'm hearing some people in the industry say 2024, but I am just hoping for the best, for myself and everyone else."

According to Gothamist, Poll's current 15-year contract with the Boathouse was supposed to end in December 2032.